It’s just five weeks until the inaugural Barnsley Music Awards and one particular category recognises the town’s solo artists. What constitutes a solo artist? Do they have a band? Should be have to perform only their own original material? In my own look at the category, I look those that I have enjoyed watching this year, be it live or on record. I’ve also thought about their own achievements.
BEST SOLO ACT – DEL SCOTT MILLER
In the last week, Mynas – one of Barnsley’s most popular bands – called it a day, after ten years of growing from an indie three-piece to a six member strong indie pop band. The band’s songwriter and guitarist Del Scott Miller has this year, been writing and releasing his own solo EPs, with two down and a third to go in a month’s time. Del’s guitar playing is complex and inventive and doffs its cap to Jeff Buckley, Johnny Marr, Paul Simon and Martin Carthy. Check out forthcoming track Sirens as an example. His lyrics are whitty and intelligent, often he uses no repeating chorus’ and his lyric sheet looks like a dissertation.
Del should also be recognised for his contribution to other artists output. He is also the go to guitarist for a number of local singers, most notably Lee England and Lauren Conway.
Lauren’s debut, self-penned EP was very much personal affair. The lyrics, music and artwork all suggested an artist eager to be taken seriously, and deservedly so. That, her ever evolving backing band and a broad palette of influences ranging from L7 to Tom Waits equal a future star not to be ignored. Her voice is second to none round these parts and in it you can hear the influences of Linda Perry, Robert Plant and The Distillers. Her nervous energy on stage is a treat to watch. If there is one solo act that has the potential to make it, it is Lauren.
Both blues/folk singer and fine artist, Richard has recently spoke of hanging up his musician’s coat to make more time for his career as a teacher and artist, but not before he releases his long awaited third album, Hermit Hill. His finger picking guitar style in influenced by Davey Graham and Bert Jansch and just like the best folk music, his songs refer to local stories. Earlier this year, Richard successfully funded the re-issue of his debut album (now ten years old) and played a lunch show at a sold-out Old No7.
Last summer Danny was an acoustic indie singer songwriter that played the odd Jake Bugg cover. His debut EP New Man was released this spring and as good as it was, it was going to be hard to stand out in a crowd when you’re playing easy on the ear, acoustic pop. However… this autumn he released an album that surprised everybody. Moving On is drenched in country music, right down to the guitar licks and backing vocals. There is even a smashing cover of Jolene on there to boot! And right now, Danny is through to the regional final of Open Mic UK 2014.
Honestly, I wouldn’t normally pick a performer that just plays cover versions and I wouldn’t normally chose to promote them over original artists. But if you had seen Laura Kelly perform this year, I’d bet that she’d make your top five solo performers too.
Laura sings and plays guitar, she feeds it though a loop pedal and the result is something that sounds like an eight piece band. She strums out the bass lines, taps out percussion and also sings the backing vocals. She does play Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, the song that KT Tunstall played on Jools Holland which highlighted the use of loop pedals to a mass audience, but aside from that obvious cover, sets highlights are blinding covers of You Can Call Me Al and Gangster’s Paradise. And what about the time her guitar failed on her and she just played a whole with layers of vocals instead. She was outstanding. Go see her. Book her. You won’t be disappointed.
That’s my five. If I were to go for ten, I am partial to a bit of Feral Indie (Lee Bailey) and his admirable project of writing two new songs and learning two new covers every month, Scott Doonican (front-man of The Bar-Steward Sons) with hundreds of gigs a year under his belt, numerous charity and live recordings and his Cabaret Doonican open mic. I’d go for Dollar is Clinically Insane – Steve Dalton, the guitarist in Mark Jackson’s Criminal Waste of Talent, who has turned his hand to performance poetry, and his EP is coated in lashings of electronica and guitar trickery. Lyndon Scarfe – the guitarist in The Black Lamps – released an amazing embient electronic soundtrack (without a film) on the blocSonic label, resulting in 13,000 downloads. Finally, Dozy (the illustrator and photographer Roseanna Hanson), who produces chip-tune remixes and electro-swing. She’s also starting a pop-punk band called Party In Lavender Town.
Who is your favourite solo artist from Barnsley? You can of course still vote, though that is limited to just one vote per IP address. To vote, go here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BMAAwards
The Barnsley Music Awards takes place Friday 5th December at the Walkabout in Barnsley. Follow the Live in Barnsley facebook page for updates about the event.